Is Clean Air Important for Cancer Recovery?

Is Clean Air Important for Cancer Recovery?

The Effects of Pollution

People trying to avoid bad air quality

The Importance of clean air during cancer recovery is not emphasized enough. Studies have shown that patients who live in areas with heavy air pollution are likely to face more difficult odds in their recovery than their counterparts. Therefore, it is vital that you ensure your indoor air pollutants such as industrial pollutants, smoke, and fungal spores are kept at a minimum or avoided entirely.

Research from the International Journal of Cancer has shown a direct connection between exposure to P.M 2.5 particles in the air and the healthy recovery of people suffering from different types of cancer.

PM 2.5 pollution comprises tiny particles and droplets less than 2.5 microns in diameter. For comparison, human hair is 30 to 70 times larger than a PM 2.5 particle. These particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream through the lungs. They are usually the product of combustion – including smoke and fumes from industrial sources and power plants, vehicle engines, wildfires, or indoor cooking fires.

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Two Main Benefits of Clean Air
  1. Reduces the risk of lung-related infection- When recovering from any form of cancer, it is crucial to ensure that the immune system is not further compromised by infection, as this significantly slows down recovery. In addition, staying away from pollutants that may aggravate the lungs or disease-causing pathogens will result in a smoother recovery period for patients.
  2. Better sleep for better health- Doctors will often advise that sleep is crucial for recovery. Evidence has emerged that the different components of sleep are; sleep duration, sleep quality, and circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock that spans over a 24-hour period that aligns with natural daylight hours are vital for patients with cancer. Because cell growth and division are primarily affected by one’s circadian rhythm, cancer cells may be more vulnerable or resistant to treatment depending on the treatment. Other areas that benefit from a good night’s sleep are the immune system, the brain, and the production and regulation of hormones.

Girl sleeping comfortably in bed

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To ensure your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is conducive for recovery, avoid in-house open fires, and keep windows closed at all times, especially if you live next to any industrial plants, to prevent dust and smoke. Also, avoid using chemical pollutants such as candles and clean surfaces regularly using non-toxic disinfectants.

The humidity level in your home is one of the biggest causes of health problems. Purchasing a portable humidity meter helps ensure that your home remains within the healthy humidity parameters to stop mold growth. 

Air purifier in room

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To easily maintain your IAQ and ensure it is at its optimum, a HEPA (High-efficiency particle air) filter helps reduce airborne contaminants in your home. Air filters take in the surrounding air and pass it through a filter, which sifts the air, captures unwanted large particles, and traps them inside the filter releasing clean air with significantly fewer particles. This makes it a serene, safe, and clean air environment for you and your family.

Don’t Make the Cancer Journey Alone

There are so many issues that arise during cancer treatments. Here to Serve offers services for families with children as they navigate cancer. They are the only nonprofit offering wrap-around services to help you manage your cancer journey on the home front. Be sure to GET HELP at diagnosis. Here to Serve helps you meet a wide range of physical, financial, and emotional needs at home to make the journey for you and your family as smooth as possible. Get in touch with us or recommend us to others recently diagnosed with cancer.

By Rhoda Naman

Preparing for Natural Disasters and Shortages

Preparing for Natural Disasters and Shortages

Stocking Up for Cancer Care

empty shelves

Image Credit: Russ Allison Loar

Nowadays, news coverage almost always contains some warning about an impending natural disaster or resource shortage. We either thoroughly shake it off and decide that these warnings are false prophecies or begin to quickly binge-watch “Survivalism” shows that urge users to high-tail it to the nearest Costco for pallets of toilet paper. However, though it’s doubtful we’ll get to the likes of an apocalyptic-level shortage of goods any time in the next few decades, globally, we witnessed how the 2019 pandemic slowed down and even sometimes stopped the way we acquired the goods and services we needed. Shifts in the environments around us due to climate change and new outbreaks of infectious diseases will undoubtedly cause shortages that could impact the way we live in a significant way. Preparing for natural disasters can help alleviate worry, especially during cancer treatment. For a family with a cancer child, these shortages may cause delays in essential supplies needed to care for your child. Preparation is critical and can make all the difference, especially in times of natural disasters and shortages. 

If you search the internet, hundreds of disaster preppers and organizations provide what they believe are the essential items to stock up on. It can be overwhelming to think about what you will need to invest to begin your emergency supply. After researching many “top ten” and most recommended lists, we’ve developed a recommended supply list specific to cancer families and their needs. Keeping your emergency supplies separate from your everyday use items is essential. As you curate your supplies over time, whether in a spare bedroom, a closet, or a basement, be sure that wherever you decide to store your emergency stocks, you can quickly and safely access them at any time.

Emergency checklistFood & Household Supplies to Stock Up
  1.  Bulk Water-Water is precious, especially in cities and states formally declaring a water shortage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that households always have a 14-day supply of water for emergencies per family member. Water is necessary for taking medications and brushing teeth, as well as essential for hydration, and it’s a non-negotiable for survival. The best and most economical option is to purchase water supplies from bulk warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.
  2. Rice and Beans- Stock up on filling foods, easy to make in a pinch and affordable in large quantities. Rice and beans are also usually okay for patients with cancer to eat because they provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and fiber needed, especially during the treatment and recovery process. When stored in its original package in a cool, dry location, beans keep for up to one year, and white rice maintains its quality for up to three years. However, when stored in extra-secure packaging and under ideal storage conditions, both have the potential to be longer than five years. Stocking up on non-perishable food is vital when preparing for natural disasters.
  3. Nut Butters-If you don’t have family members with nut allergies, nut butter provides a great shelf-stable and calorie-dense food option to stock up on. Alternatives like peanut, almond, cashew, and even sunflower butter take our favorite protein-laden nuts and seeds and grind them into delicious smoothness. Powdered peanut butter, specially designed for long-term storage, can last up to 10 years. Almond butter is also an excellent alternative to peanuts. According to the USDA, you can keep peanut butter or almond butter in proper storage for six to nine months (unopened) and two to three months (opened).
  4. Medical glovesInfection Protection-Though transmission by touch appears to be the least likely way to spread most viruses; if you live with people who work outside the home, diluted bleach is handy to have for wiping down commonly shared areas such as doorknobs, handles, kitchen counters, bathroom fixtures and surfaces of medical equipment. In addition, masks (for everyone ages two and above), soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes and gloves are all great supplies to keep your surroundings clean and safe for your family. This is especially critical if you have a child with cancer living in the home. If a national shortage or natural disaster does happen, you’ll want to protect your already sick child from any other potentially harmful infections.
  5. Laundry detergent-Make sure you’re able to wash the personal items of a sick child as regularly as needed. They will likely have a favorite blanket or stuffed toy that has provided comfort throughout their cancer journey. The last thing you want is for them to have part with this because you can no longer keep it clean for them.
  6. Toilet paperToilet Paper-Who can forget the toilet paper crisis of 2020? To avoid future repeats of this scenario, it’s a good idea to keep extra TP on hand.
  7. Toothpaste- Maintaining oral care throughout cancer treatment and beyond is crucial. Chemotherapy drugs can cause sores in the mouth and throat and dryness, irritation, or bleeding. Stocking up on items of personal hygiene that you use frequently makes the most sense, especially if it’s part of keeping your child with cancer healthy.
  8. Body & Hair Cleansing and Moisturizing Items– Many patients experience changes to their skin, hair, and nails during and after cancer treatment. Your doctor probably recommended using gentle products for cleaning and moisturizing your child’s delicate skin. If there are specialty products you use, it’s an excellent time to stock up on these because they are the first to become low supply on shelves due to specific demand.
  9. Extra gas and waterExtra Gas-Most people will have the luxury of staying housebound should a national lockdown happen. However, if you have a family member that is sick with cancer, getting to the doctor could be a life or death situation. Keeping some extra gas stored for emergencies may be a good idea if your car requires gas. To learn more about allowable gas quantities and how to store gas tanks properly, check out the Exon Mobil’s website for helpful tips and regulations.
  10. Medications & Medical Supplies-Loading up on critical medicines and medical supplies is probably the most vital when preparing for natural disasters and during a national shortage of supplies. Likely, you’ve already experienced annoying delays in getting the medical essentials you needed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though it seems like supply chains for medical necessities are back in order, it’s still an excellent time to think bulk on the supplies you need to care for your child. Experts in disaster preparedness recommend a 30-day supply, if possible, or 90 days if your doctor and insurance provider (and your wallet) allow.
Home Preparation Tools

In addition to having the supplies your body needs to sustain long periods of supply shortages, there are essential items that every household should have in the case of disasters due to environmental changes. These items include, for example, flashlights, batteries, fire extinguishers, matches, etc. Chances are you already have these tucked away in your home. Now is the time to collect and find these items to ensure they are fully functioning and replace them as needed. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has created a concise, realistic, and easy-to-follow checklist. Click Here to build your home kit based on their recommendations and quantities, and learn how to take care of your bulk stashes properly.

Besides supply-chain setbacks due to public health issues, some specific delays and disasters can happen based on where you live geographically. For example, someone living in California may need to have their home equipped to deal with wildfires rather than large-scale flooding. It’s a good idea to understand the environmental issues plaguing your specific city so you can customize what you need to protect your home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a statewide database to search past and present declared disasters. To search for natural disasters where you live, click here.

Understandably, preparing for natural disasters and shortages is probably the last thing you want to consider when caring for a family member with cancer. However, our political, financial, and environmental climate seems to be fluctuating unpredictably, and our most vulnerable citizens must be protected and taken care of in times of crisis. Think about collecting your reserves slow and small, but it’s an excellent idea to start somewhere. As always, Here To Serve is here to help provide and connect families to resources they may be unable to find. Please contact us if you or someone you know needs assistance as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. We’ll do our very best to get you the help you need! Please visit  Here To Serves website and click the Get Help button to contact us. From our team at Here To Serve, we wish you a safe season filled with fabulous summer memories!

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle. Image attributes:

Herbal Supplements During Cancer Treatment: Helpful or Harmful?

Herbal Supplements During Cancer Treatment: Helpful or Harmful?

What is Safe vs Unsafe?

Herbal supplementsHerbs = natural = healthy, right? Well, it’s not all black and white. While there are many pharmacological benefits to natural substances, there is potential for harmful drug interactions if someone is on a potent cancer treatment like chemotherapy. Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate safety or labels before they get on the shelves, so it’s hard to be sure what you’re consuming. The potencies of herbal supplements can also vary greatly depending on harvesting.

None of this information is apparent, which is why July is Herbal and Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. Here to Serve wants to help bring awareness to this vital topic and empower you to share this information with others in your cancer circle. Of course, it’s essential to talk to your doctor regarding your or your child’s care plan and what supplements may or may not be appropriate. Should you use herbal supplements during cancer treatment? or should you avoid using them? Read along and let us investigate the pros and cons of the issue. 

Herbs can change the way drugs metabolize

Many herbs change the way a drug processes in the body. For example, if an herb increases the metabolism of a drug, it can reduce its concentration in the blood and its effectiveness. Meanwhile, decreased drug metabolism can increase the drug’s concentration in the blood, potentially leading to increased side effects. Additionally, herbs can raise or lower blood pressure, increase blood thinning and thereby the risk of bleeding, and change how your body reacts to sedation or general anesthesia.

What’s safe vs unsafe?

There are not sufficient data regarding most drug and herbal supplement Interactions. In fact, so many of their effects and reactions remain unclear and inconsistent. This can make navigating this part of the treatment process overwhelming and confusing. However, here’s some of what we do know:

  • Avoid all supplements when starting treatment or surgery. It’s typically recommended to stop taking herbal remedies and other dietary supplements one or more weeks before having surgery or starting treatment
  • Avoid antioxidants. Data varies about the use of antioxidants, like vitamin C. While some data suggests it can kill cancer cells or protect healthy cells, these supplements may also make these treatments less effective. Until more is known, it’s best to avoid them during treatment
  • Spices used for cooking are generally safe. However, if you cook with a spice often or in large amounts, check with your doctor to ensure that it doesn’t interact with treatment. For example, garlic has been associated with postoperative hemorrhage as well as interaction with anticoagulants
  • Some herbs are associated with greater drug-to-drug interactions. Particular parts of foods and supplements can alter the PK of specific types of drugs. This includes John’s wort, grapefruit juice, and epigallocatechin gallate from green tea
  • Herbs can help alleviate treatment side effects. Talk to your doctor about supplements that can assist certain symptoms. For example, ginger may help nausea, and Astragalus has been shown to reduce adverse reactions to chemotherapy

Want to look up a specific herb? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a database where you can search by herb and if there are any known drug-to-drug interactions. Of course, always check with your healthcare provider before incorporating any supplements into your or your child’s diet.

Get answers and help from Here to Serve

There is so much along the cancer journey that can feel overwhelming and confusing. Here to Serve is available to help lessen this burden on families. We provide resources on topics such as nutrition and other hard-to-find resources that may become more relevant to families at any point in the cancer journey. Learn more about the services from Here to Serve, and get help today if you or someone you know needs extra care.

By Emily Rogalin

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

Can Music Help Heal Cancer Patients?

Can Music Help Heal Cancer Patients?

Our Universal Language

women playing the drum“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” – Bob Marley. 

Music is our universal language and one of the most powerful to evoke change and emotion. Can music help in the journey to heal cancer patients? We explore the role of music therapy in the healing and coping journey. Unfortunately, families enduring the cancer journey have many stressors from managing this terrible disease. Music therapy can be considered an add-on therapy to help relieve patients from the anxiety and stress that comes with intense cancer treatments and procedures. This, in turn, leads to physical benefits, including better pain management.

A brief history

Music therapy is by no means a new concept. Its roots go as far back as Ancient Greece, where philosophers like Aristotle and Pythagoras preached the healing power of music. It’s also been recorded in the Bible and other ancient primitive and native cultures. Music has been vital to humanity throughout history. Even coined as “the soul’s medicine,” it’s no doubt that music has a powerful effect on us.

But does it have healing powers?

Yes. In a review of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music, studies have shown several positive physical and mental outcomes from music therapy:

  • Listening to music is more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery. Another study supports the same effects for post-surgery, in addition to reducing post-operative pain
  • Music increases immunoglobulin A, an antibody that helps attack foreign germs and bacteria
  • Music decreases cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, and can lower blood pressure
Types of music therapy

There are multiple forms of music therapy, including listening and playing music, singing, moving/dancing to music, and even analyzing music through visions and talking about the meaning of songs. It comes in all sorts of shapes and forms. Typically, a music therapist will work directly with patients, but you don’t always need formal therapy to get the therapeutic benefits of music. Bringing more music into the home can be an easy step that you can begin today. ​​If you don’t know where to start, here’s a playlist for those who have fought or are still fighting cancer.

Providing hope and harmonybaby touching guitar

There is still so much to discover in the field of music therapy. Although researchers have uncovered some of the explanations behind music’s clinical benefits, there is more and more research being done around the world on how to optimize music therapy further to promote healing.

Photo credit: Children’s National Hospital

Here to Serve

At Here to Serve, we can help bring music therapy to families going through the cancer journey. Our resource referral service can help connect families with musical therapists in their area. Music therapy is one of the many complimentary services that can help throughout the cancer journey. Our resource referrals can also assist families in finding mental health resources, financial services, transportation, lodging, organizational assistance, spiritual support, and more. Our resource referrals are only one of the many services we offer families going through cancer. If you or someone you know can benefit from our services, sign up to get help!

By Emily Rogalin

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

Summer Fun Even When You’re Not Feeling Well

Summer Fun Even When You're Not Feeling Well

Activities with Improved Psychological Effects

Sand castleSchool has ended, and summer vacation has officially started. Summer break usually means sports camps, sleepovers, and pool days in the hot sun for many grade school children. However, this can be a tough season for a child with cancer because they may feel the FOMO (fear of missing out) because they can’t participate in the usual summer activities their friends are enjoying. Still, it’s absolutely understandable that boredom can set in quickly when kids are sick and really need to rest! Between the necessary trips to the hospital and time to rest, it may feel like there is no window for summer fun. Many parents look for activities that keep their child busy and utilize skills that the child already has. While practicing specific skill-sets is important, brain growth happens more with free play and thinking than with any other activity, especially during the lower school years. Therefore allowing a child to engage in daily, safe, adult-supervised free time can encourage the development of creative skills, resulting in better brain function. Better brain function can strengthen your child’s ability to cope with changes they will face physically during their cancer journey.

With proper planning, summer activities can help build a child’s self-esteem and autonomy. We’ve found some great activities that will keep kids occupied and take part in summer fun that meets their specific needs. Here are our picks for summer activities that are gentle on the body, can improve psychological well-being, help build social and psychological learning skills, and are just plain FUN!!

Summer Fun At Home!
  • Action symbolDocumentary Movies
    • Summer is a great time to make a goal or list of new people, places, or things your child wants to learn about. Have your child pick 2-3 topics that they are curious about, and at the end of the summer, have them create a short report or presentation to show you what they learned. This can be a significant source of “brain food” while still being happily engaged in a new concept. Take advantage of the plethora of documentaries available on streaming channels like NetFlix, Hulu, Disney+, or YouTube!
  • Summer Reading Program
    • Summer reading is critical for helping kids maintain learning while school is out and fostering social-emotional development, discovering the joy of stories, and elevating the importance of lifelong learning.Alarm clock and summer time Call or visit your local library to find out if they offer a summer reading program. Many times libraries will offer prizes and incentives for the number of books read over summer break! Alternatively, there are many online summer reading programs that can help your child choose books and track their progress. Here are a few great resources:
      • Scholastic Home Base-From April 26 through September 3, visit the Scholastic summer zone for stories, games, and community. Keep track of your books. Read e-books. Meet favorite characters and authors. Print reading achievement reports.
  • Barnes and Noble-Download and print a Reading Journal. Then, read eight books and record the titles in the printed journal. Once you’ve read the 8 books, take your journal to your local Barnes and Noble to get a free book. It couldn’t be easier. You can also find a printable parent’s guide with tips and fun literacy activities.
  • Half-Price Books Feed Your Brain-Read for at least 15 minutes each day. Download their free reading log to record your minutes. Once you’ve read 300 minutes, you can turn your completed log into your local HPB store and earn $5 Half-Price Books Bucks. You can also find tips and printable book lists.
  • Pen and journalJournal It
    • This might seem old fashion to your child, but journaling has been touted as a great coping tool, providing journal-keepers with a place to dump and puzzle through emotions and grapple with life turned upside down by cancer. The healing power of journaling has long been tapped by people affected by cancer, with many reliable studies supporting promises of improved emotional and even physical health. Although there are many ways of doing it, writing about events, people, and things you’re grateful for appears good for the mind, heart, and soul. And it can be as simple as writing a list at the end of the day of three things you are grateful for that day. Here are some great tools that can make this a rewarding summer activity.
      • Digital Journals that are secure and free to create!
      • The Paper and Pen Way!
      • Cards
        • Simple card games are a great way to keep kids occupied when you need just a short activity. Some good ole’ card games you might have played as a child still provide hours of fun and provide a respite from the digital world. Most child psychology experts agree that memory games, such as playing cards, build thinking skills, concentration, attention, and persistence. Check out some of the classics here. For older kids, let them explore some card tricks on YouTube and see if they can fool you!
  • Father and son playing chessChess
    • Summer is the perfect time to learn a new board game or master one you might already know. Chess is at the top of our list for so many reasons! There are many benefits to playing chess, for both adults and children alike. The majority of these benefits deal with developing and improving cognitive brain functions, including problem-solving, creative thinking, strategic planning, pattern recognition, and memorization skills. Also, it helps to potentially raise IQ levels while teaching sportsmanship and building self-confidence at the same time. Not to mention, it is so much fun to play! You can find many different styles of chess sets on Amazon that come with instructions on how to play. If you can’t play in person there are some wonderful online resources available to get your chess on! Check these out:Deck of cards
Summer Fun Away from Home!

Summer camps and family programs are offered to children and teens fighting cancer around the country. Camps allow children to spend time in a supportive, nurturing environment while allowing them to bond with their peers. Below is a list of local and national camps designed to serve children with cancer and their families. Many centers offer full-time care for children with special needs, and some have doctors and nurses on staff to provide medical care to campers when necessary. If you consider attending a local or distant camp or retreat, talk with your healthcare providers first to ensure it’s the best suited for your family.

Here are a few vetted ones that are open for enrollment now!

*A complete list of camps and programs can be found on the website:

Need More Support for the Summer? Contact Us!

If you are a family with a child newly diagnosed with cancer, or if you know of a family who finds themselves in this challenging situation, please contact Here to Serve. Our team is ready to help families navigate this challenging new world in light of a childhood cancer diagnosis and provide support in many different ways. Please click on the Get Help button from our homepage. Our team at Here to Serve wishes you a wonderful summer season filled with new adventures and lasting memories!

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

How Women’s Health Month Suggestions Help Cancer Caregivers?

How Women's Health Month Suggestions Help Cancer Caregivers?

Sharing Ideas!

Mother with daughter smiling togetherNational Women’s Health Month observance is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office every May. Many ideas shared in May help women care for themselves to avoid serious illnesses. These ideas can also be implemented to help cancer caregivers. Here are some of the essential suggestions women should consider:

  1. Schedule primary care appointments annually

    Schedule your annual preventative care appointments such as Pap smears, mammograms, bone density screening, cholesterol etc. Visit a board-certified primary care physician to ensure you receive all medical tests and vaccines.

  2. Make changes to your diet

    Nourish your body by changing to or sticking to a healthy balanced diet with foods full of nutrients. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Consider a Paleo diet limiting the intake of carbohydrates and dairy. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, and folic acid. Folic acid may reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a substance that is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. It is recommended that women consume up to 400mgs of folic acid daily. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of essential minerals and fibers. For a healthier diet, reduce your intake of foods with trans fats such as fried foods or foods with saturated fats.

  3. Get active

    Take breaks throughout your daily activities and include a 15-30 minute walk. This improves cardiovascular health and helps lower the risk of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension. Getting exercise has also stabilizes blood sugar and regulates insulin levels in your body which cuts down the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Getting active can also sharpen your thinking, learning, and judgment skills.

  4. Practice self-care
    Self-care is “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” Self-care is a conscious act performed by individuals to boost their emotional, mental and physical health.
    Don’t get lazy with your self-care, and do not underestimate its advantages. Self-care can take many forms, but it is the simple act of connecting with yourself and pampering yourself through small activities that make you feel good and whole.
    Try to make time to unwind from your daily obligations and check in with friends, family, and loved ones. And keep an eye out for sudden mood changes.
  5. Develop good sleeping habits
    1 in 3 adults does not regularly get the recommended amount of sleep they need to protect their health. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleeping disorder. Sleep deficiency can easily lead to depression and heart disease. Sleep hygiene would go a long way to helping your sleeping habits. Begin by scheduling and sticking to a certain time for sleep. Create an easy routine to go along with it; for example, take a shower before bed and remove all electronics such as phones or TVs from your bedroom.
  6. Find healthy ways to manage stress
    Emotional and mental stress exist in almost everybody’s life. Unfortunately, stress can take a physical toll on your body. Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety disorders, burnout, and even hypertension. Finding the right way to cope with stress can make for a better, more peaceful living experience. Ways to cope with stress can be mediation, yoga, or reading a good book.
    You may also find peace when you spend a few minutes in nature or take a walk. It is crucial to find an activity that keeps you grounded and allows you to relax fully.
    Find communities of people in similar situations for comfort and support, whether physically or online.

For cancer caregivers, Here to Serve is an excellent way to obtain support for you and your family, allowing you the time to meet a wide range of needs, medically and socially. If you or someone you know is a family with children recently diagnosed with cancer, GET HELP from Here to Serve so you can have the time to take care of your sick loved one and yourself.

By Rhoda Naman

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

Celebrating Dads with a Child Battling Cancer on Father’s Day

Celebrating Dads with a Child Battling Cancer on Father's Day

Sunday, June 19

Dad by his son's side in the ERCancer dad. It’s a title that no one wants or knows what to do with. But, with Fathers Day just around the corner on June 19th, it’s time to recognize and uplift these dads, who are often unsung heroes for families enduring pediatric cancer. In this blog we provide some ideas on celebrating dads with a child battling cancer.  While moms usually take on most of the caregiving responsibility, dads are often left with caregiving on top of working to provide for basic living and healthcare expenses. For up to 92% of affected parents, financial distress begins within six months of diagnosis and continues throughout the cancer journey.

The Unseen Struggles

Studies show that the stress of adequately providing for their family can lead dads to embarrassment and humiliation, fear, persistent thoughts and anxiety about money, reduced joy, feeling like they don’t deserve to express their needs, and feeling vulnerable to repeated financial stressors.

It’s known that societal and cultural pressures often lead men to limit showing their emotions and asking for help. Dads often hide away their hurt or do it in private where no one will see it. They feel like they’re just holding on and doing the best they can most of the time. There’s so much hidden beneath the surface for all of us, but it is tenfold for cancer dads.

The Unseen Sacrifices

With the pressure to provide, dads are doing whatever it takes to ensure that their child can get care. They put off their own health, reallocate savings from their retirement and children’s education, adjust careers, sell personal items, and work more. These are just to name a few of the financial sacrifices they make.

Seeing and Celebrating Cancer Dads

Father’s Day can come with a range of emotions for dads. They can experience everything from gratitude to love to anger–and all are entirely valid. They didn’t get the easiest hand when it comes to being a dad and having to uphold a heroic level of fatherhood. So here are a few encouraging ways to celebrate him this Father’s Day:

  • Dad with smiling but sick daughterShare the love. Send a hand-written letter or text to help dad feel loved on Father’s Day. Going beyond the “Happy Father’s Day, hope you have a great day” generics can really go a long way and help dad feel loved and appreciated. You can capture things you admire about him, recount a cherished memory, or write about the ways he is an amazing father.
  • Help them reflect. With so much worry about tomorrow, it may be difficult for dads to focus on the present moment or be proud of the past. Help shine a light on their strength and encourage them to reflect on all they’ve done to get to today.
  • Give him the gift of one of his old hobbies. Cancer dads often give up their hobbies or activities because their time is taken up by work and caregiving. What used to bring him joy that he no longer does? Maybe it’s an afternoon on a golf course, going for a hike, or maybe it’s just grabbing a beer at his favorite local spot.Dad and child smiling
  • Have the kids create something for him. Normalcy is a coveted experience for families going through the cancer journey. Something as simple as a homemade father’s day card or drawing could the small thing that makes his day.
  • Give him the gift of time. It may be dad simply needs time to himself, to rest, and possibly have his favorite meal or BBQ. Have the children join in and serve him or even help cook the meal if they are old enough to help.
  • Dad’s have a legacy, even new dads. Have the children make a shadow box and fill it with mementos, photos of great memories, including his dad and grandfather. Add meaningful things, maybe a shell from a beach you visited with him or a rock you painted of something that has meaning between your dad and you. Give him some nostalgia.
  • Makeover a children’s book. Find a children’s book with pictures but not many words. Use the pictures to share a story that brings back a memory of you and your dad. Handwrite your memory on that page. Tell him how important he is to you and what you have learned from him.
          Helping Dads at Here to serve

          Here to Serve helps lift the burden for dads with children battling cancer offering wraparound services. Here to Serve offers one place to go for physical, financial, emotional help and resources, so there’s less to worry about. In addition to providing financial assistance, Here to Serve can help alleviate daily tasks like errands, childcare, meals, yard work, and more. Families can also receive extra support from a Family Care Coordinator and receive additional resource referrals. If you or someone you know is battling cancer while raising children or has a child battling cancer tell them there is organized and life-saving help. They only need to reach out to Here to Serve and GET HELP!

          We know that time is precious. Here to Serve strives to give more of it back to dads so they can have more time with the things that matter most–family.

          Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing dads out there going through this journey. We’re here for you.

          By Emily Rogalin

          All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

          You Are a Cancer Survivor…Now What?

          You Are a Cancer Survivor…Now What?

          National Cancer Survivors Day - June 5, 2022
          “You are BRAVER than you believe,
          STRONGER than you seem, SMARTER than
          you think, and twice as BEAUTIFUL than you
          ever imagined”
          You Made It!

          It’s incredible to think that we’ve lived through an aggressive mutating virus that started a global pandemic in the past few years, wars exposing old wounds between countries, obscure weather conditions due to climate change, and gas price sticker shock mocking us every time we fill up. But, guess what you made through…some while taking on the challenging and stressful journey of pediatric cancer, you SURVIVED! Today, Here to Serve celebrates those who fought the good fight and survived their battle with cancer, especially the families we served. Harper, in the photo to the left, is a pediatric cancer survivor! At ten months old, she battled Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) M7 Mutation. She is a cancer survivor. Now she is living life and enjoying the three brothers who have since joined her growing family! We celebrate her and the many children who have survived cancer and live remarkable lives.

          Mom kissing daughter on cheekTake Your Time

          Survivorship doesn’t just mean you magical snap back into your family’s pre-cancer diagnosis routine and life. There are significant aftermath emotions, often long-term side effects from treatment, and constant monitoring for years to ensure NED (no evidence of disease). It’s understandable that though you want to be grateful that you and your child have pulled through, you still can’t be wholly excited and ready to celebrate life after cancer. There are times when “scanxiety” takes hold. Taking the time to heal and getting organized after cancer can make all the difference in your transition. You may not have the time to ponder the future while trying to survive. Check out some of these essentials that you’ll want to list out and think about a current and updated plan for:

          • Follow-up Cancer Care
          • Health Insurance Coverage after completing treatment
          • Life Insurance Coverage
          • Graphic of head with name tags of worrisome feelings For parents and young adults searching for a job that will suit any new physical limitations.
          • Sorting out pending medical bills. Creating a simple list or spreadsheet can make all the difference when you’re trying to organize what payments still need to be closed out from diagnosis to end-term treatment. It may be helpful to keep these separate from after-cancer care bills.
          • Understanding your family’s current mental health by speaking with a therapist. You might have elements of post-traumatic stress that could hinder your survivorship. Therapy is an integral part of healing from the ordeal of cancer.
          • Young boy playing soccer goalieUnderstanding and coping with a changed physical body. Cancer survivors will likely be more aware of body shape changes, aches, and pains. It’s important to notice them and remind them that these are all physical alterations, but the most complex internal fight they survived was the best gift their body could give them. Surviving cancer is a tremendous accomplishment, and many who battle the disease are not so lucky.
          • Find a support group specifically created for children and/or young survivors. Many cancer survivors find support groups to be very beneficial. Having other pediatric cancer survivors to talk to before getting back to the everyday routines of school, rekindling old friendships, or getting back to activities they once loved will make transitioning forward easier.
          • Graphic of a checklistEducate yourself on the latent side effects that might come over time from aggressive chemotherapy treatments, and know what signs to look for. Living a healthy lifestyle can counteract possible long-term side effects.
          Our Cancer Survivor Story: Meet Seth!

          During a seemingly ordinary summer break in 2017, filled with plans for sunny beach days, bike ride adventures, splashing in the pool, and making memories at summer camp, Seth’s family noticed something a little odd after he accidentally stepped on a Lego. Seth quickly developed a high fever and a decline in his physical energy while recovering from the sprain caused by the pesky toy piece. His parents intuitively decided to take him for further blood tests, which initially came out normal. After a few weeks of summer fun, Seth came down with yet another intense fever, but this one was different. Seth was not eating, his body was starting to look very weak, he was pale, and his usually playful eyes were dark and sunken.Image of young cancer patient smiling

          Another emergency trip to the doctor and more blood tests revealed that 6-year-old Seth had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called Philadelphia Chromosome Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ( Ph+ ALL).   Seth was put into the High-Risk category, which meant more aggressive chemotherapy. At the time of diagnosis, Seth’s doctors informed his family that the success rate was not as high, and in the worst-case scenario, it may require a bone-marrow transplant. By December 2020,  after a long journey of traditional therapies and experimental phase medications, Seth was officially cancer-free! However, like every cancer survivor, he suffered from long-term side effects. In March 2021, Seth was hospitalized due to his battle with large kidney stones that developed because of certain medications during his cancer treatment. Seth has been concurring post-cancer issues like a champ, a true fighter!

          Young boy smilingHe is a jubilant, adventurous, and intelligent cancer survivor who is ready and hopeful to live his life to the fullest. The relentless efforts of a loving family and support groups played a significant role in the well-being of him and his family. It truly takes a village to pull through pediatric cancer, and it can make a massive impact on the outcome of survivorship. Seth recently celebrated his 11th Birthday this past April. Please join us in wishing him a healthy and happy new year ahead!

          If you would like to learn more about Seth and follow his story of overcoming a rare cancer diagnosis, please check out his group Facebook page!

          Here to Serve

          Many children and young adults that HereTo Serve support survive their cancer diagnosis. You can also support our efforts to help other children like Harper and Seth battle pediatric cancers on Amazon Smile. We are on the cancer journey with them to ease the burden of daily life as they concentrate their energy on treatment and recovery. We understand that not every cancer battle will end in survival, but our hope is for survival to live, grow and celebrate life. If you know a family with a child recently diagnosed with cancer, Here to Serve can make a huge difference. Many families have said they don’t know how they could have made it through without the support of Here to Serve and their program and ability to galvanize and organize support. Here to Serve provides support that hospitals and the healthcare system cannot. Contact Here To Serve by clicking on the Get Help button here or on our website. We wish all our current and future cancer families a very Happy Cancer Survivors Day filled with an abundance of hope, love, and a renewed joy in life! 

          By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

          About the Author

          Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

          All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

          How Does Cancer Affect Mental Health for Cancer Patients?

          Cancer DOES Affect Mental Health

          Before and After Treatment

          Mental Health Issues in Cancer Patients

          Does Cancer Cause Mental Health Issues?

          A cancer diagnosis is life-changing and can often lead to patients and caregivers experiencing mental health issues.

            How Many Cancer Patients Suffer from Mental Illness?

            It is estimated that 8-24% of cancer patients suffer from mental illness related to their diagnosis and treatment. However, these statistics are likely artificially low because some mental health issues like depression mimic cancer symptoms. According to a study out of the UK, 1/3 of cancer patients experience a mental health concern during or after treatment. Research does show that youths and young adults are at a greater risk of mental health issues than adults with a cancer diagnosis.

            Families and caregivers can also experience mental health issues after cancer treatment.

            Infographic of mental health and cancer statistics

            How Does Cancer Affect You Emotionally?

            Research shows that for both caregivers and patients, mental health issues can lead to:

            • Inability to focus on treatment decisions significantly slows down the treatment process
            • Failure to make follow up appointments
            • Inconsistency with medication

            Pediatric cancer challenging and traumatic for patients and their families. Children undergoing cancer treatment are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, including distress, depression, and anxiety.

            Emotional Distress

            What is Emotional Distress?

            Emotional distress is described as an unpleasant emotion, thought, and feeling. Distress affects how one might think, feel and act.

            It is normal for both patients and caregivers to experience distress after a cancer diagnosis, however, when it becomes debilitating is when there is a reason for concern. 

              Emotional Distress Symptoms

              The symptoms of severe distress are:

              • Thinking about cancer/death all the time
              • Feeling overwhelmed to a point of panic
              • Being excessively irritable and angry
              • Feeling hopeless
              • Having trouble sleeping
              • Questioning belief and faith that once gave you comfort
              • Having trouble concentrating


                What is Depression?

                Depression is mild or severe sadness over a period of time. Research shows that 1 in 4 people diagnosed with cancer experience depression after diagnosis.

                  Depression Symptoms

                  Here are some of the other signs to look for in both patients and families:

                  • Never-ending hopelessness and sadness
                  • Irregular sleep can either over-sleep or sleepless
                  • Loss of interest in hobbies
                  • Pervasive thoughts of death or suicide
                  • Trouble focusing, concentrating, or making decisions
                  Dad lying in bed cuddling sleeping pediatric cancer patient


                  What is Anxiety?

                  Anxiety is described as a feeling of dread, consistent worry, or being on edge. It is common for both cancer patients and their families to develop anxiety after a diagnosis.

                    What causes Anxiety?

                    After a cancer diagnosis, anxiety may be triggered by:

                    • The fear of treatment and/or side effects of treatment
                    • The fear of cancer spreading
                    • Concern over the change in family/relationship dynamic
                    • Fear of death

                      Types of Anxiety

                      There are two types of anxiety – acute anxiety, and chronic anxiety.

                      Two pediatric cancer patients wearing masks - one white and one green
                      Acute Anxiety
                      Acute Anxiety Symptoms

                      Acute anxiety his is when one experiences short bursts of symptoms such as;

                      • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
                      • Chest pain
                      • Shortness of breath
                      • Feeling suffocated
                      • Sweating or chills
                      • Dizziness
                      • Trembling
                      • Abdominal pain
                      Chronic Anxiety
                      Chronic Anxiety Symptoms

                      Chronic anxiety often manifests in the following symptoms:

                      • Muscle Tension
                      • Difficulty breathing and focusing
                      • Excessive worrying
                      • Irritability
                      • Fatigue

                        Coping with Pediatric Cancer

                        Coping with mental health issues is a critical aspect of pediatric cancer care. There are several strategies that patients and their families can employ to manage these challenges along their pediatric cancer journey. 

                        Photo Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

                        Talk Therapy

                        Getting in touch with a board-certified psychologist and/or Psychiatrist will help you learn tools to improve coping skills, re-shape negative thoughts, and develop an efficient support system for all parties included.

                          Support Groups & Communities

                          Find people you can to relate to who have gone through mental health issues during cancer treatment. Seek out help from Here to Serve, a pediatric cancer nonprofit that assists with the journey at home. Like the popular adage goes, “It takes a village.” Seeking and building communities around the diagnosis (such as Here to Serve) will help alleviate a lot of pressure and allow you to find additional support for yourself and your family.

                          Resources like support groups can be therapeutic for a lot of patients and their families. Relating to others experiencing this traumatic experience can help people feel less alone and more understood in their pediatric cancer journey.


                            Should symptoms persist, contact a certified psychiatrist and get on the proper medication. This helps to reduce symptoms to allow you to function normally. It’s recommended that prescribed medication be used in conjunction with talk therapy and counseling for the best results.

                              Should you, your family or a friend need additional support at home after a cancer diagnosis, Here to Serve has many services and resources dedicated to helping you and your family during a cancer journey. Get Help at Here to Serve.

                              Gray May – Brain Tumor Awareness Month

                              Gray May - Brain Tumor Awareness Month

                              Supporting the Brain Tumor Community

                              Brain tumor awareness is crucial, especially in the case of pediatric cancer. Going gray in May is your opportunity to promote the needs of kids with cancer.

                              What does “go gray in May” mean?

                              You might start seeing #GrayMay and #GoGrayInMay on social media in May to recognize Brain Tumor Awareness Month. The “gray” in those hashtags represent gray matter, which is the color of the brain cortex, which contains nerve cell bodies.

                              When is Brain Tumor Awareness month?

                              Since a United States Congressional resolution was first passed in 2008, organizations across the country are taking the opportunity to focus attention on brain cancer annually during the month of May.

                              Brain Tumor Awareness Month

                              How many people have brain cancer in the US?

                              Brain cancer affects nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. 

                              Childhood brain cancer statistics

                              The statistics regarding brain tumors in children under 19 are upsetting. Pediatric brain cancer affects more young people than most are aware. 

                              What are the most common pediatric brain tumors?

                              According to the American Cancer Society, brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most common cancer in children. These types of cancers account for nearly 25% of childhood cancers. Over 4,000 children and teens are diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors each year. 

                              Fortunately, the 5-year survival rate for all combined types of brain tumors is about 75%, but this rate varies drastically. For example, Glioblastoma is a very aggressive cancer often occurring in the brain, and the survival rate is only about 20%.

                              According to the National Brain Tumor Society, brain tumors and cancers affect Americans from all walks of life. Still, the statistics in young people under the age of 19 are heart-wrenching, and the disease has a tremendous impact on the quality of life for the patient and their families.

                              • Approximately 70% of all brain tumors are benign, and 30% are malignant.
                              • Over 18,000 people die from a malignant brain tumor each year.
                              • Brain tumors are the most common solid cancer in people ages 19 and younger in the United States.
                              • Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and adolescents under 19.
                              • Approximately 31,000 adolescents and young adults are estimated to be living with a brain tumor in the United States.

                              Causes of brain cancer

                              Certain types of tumors, such as medulloblastoma, are more common in children. In many cases, the exact causes of brain tumors in children are unknown. Still, according to research at the Mayo Clinic, most pediatric brain tumors are generally primary brain tumors that form in brain tissues. Healthy cells have mutations in their DNA; these mutations divide and grow at an increased rate. They spread while destroying healthy cells. The consequence is a mass of abnormal cells which develop into a tumor. The tumors will either be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

                              Brain imaging scan

                              Brain Tumor Symptoms in Kids

                              The skull protects the brain, a fragile part of the body. There is a limited amount of extra space; as a brain tumor grows, this will cause pressure known as intracranial pressure. As this pressure occurs, symptoms might begin to develop. Johns Hopkins Medical University provides abundantly helpful information about children’s brain tumors. Some of the signs and symptoms they mention to be aware of:

                              • Headaches
                              • Seizures
                              • Nausea and vomiting
                              • Irritability
                              • Lethargy and drowsiness

                              The above list is very general symptoms, so it does not automatically mean a brain tumor or cancer if you see one or even all of them. If you are concerned that your child or a loved one might have any brain issues, don’t hesitate to contact a health care professional and seek a thorough diagnosis.

                              Treatment Options for Pediatric Brain Tumors

                              If a tumor has developed, there are many treatment options. The three most common are:

                              • Surgery – Most common in infants and young children. If the tumor is accessible and slow-growing, surgery might be the only required treatment for complete removal. There might be some neurological issues after surgery, but usually, they are only temporary.
                              • Radiation Therapy – Beams of radiation target the tumor and tissue surrounding the area. This treatment may require several sessions to remove all cancer.
                              • Chemotherapy – There are different forms of chemo available, pills taken orally or IVs given intravenously. The chemo is usually injected into the cerebrospinal fluid.
                              Here to Serve can Provide Guidance
                              A cancer diagnosis is news no parent or guardian ever want to hear. Pediatric  It is a life-changing event that will affect all family members. Fear and confusion are just two of the emotions parent go through in the early days of learning this news. Where can you turn for support? Family and friends can provide emotional care during this time. 

                              Hand holding gray ribbon for Brain Tumor Awareness Month

                              Here to Serve can help

                              A cancer diagnosis is news no parent or guardian ever want to hear. Pediatric  It is a life-changing event that will affect all family members. Fear and confusion are just two of the emotions parent go through in the early days of learning this news. Where can you turn for support? Family and friends can provide emotional care during this time. 

                              Many organizations that research and treat brain cancers and tumors highlight their cause during Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Here to Serve often does not get the spotlight in these efforts, but we are vocal, nonetheless! The hard work and dedication to spread brain cancer awareness and highlight resources continue throughout the year. 

                              If you need additional assistance for day-to-day tasks, please reach out to Here to Serve and our Care Communities. We have helped many families with children suffering from brain tumors and other pediatric cancers. Our aid and care can ease your anxiety during a stressful time.

                              By Chris Smith.